Weekly News 17 – 21 December 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday, 17 December 2018

Poland: The European Union’s highest court confirmed an order forcing Poland to suspend a sweeping judicial overhaul that involves lowering the retirement age of Supreme Court judges. “Poland must immediately suspend the application of the provisions of national legislation relating to the lowering of the retirement age for Supreme Court judges,” the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg said in a binding order on Monday. (Bloomberg)

Italy: A 20-year-old Somali national arrested last week in Bari on terrorism charges allegedly wanted to stage an attack at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome at Christmas, according to wiretap recordings. Mohsin Ibrahim Omar, who also goes by the name Anas Khalil, is believed by DIGOS special security police in Bari to be linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) in Somalia and to be in contact with one of its operating cells. (ANSA)

Libya: Libya’s state oil company NOC has declared force majeure at the country’s largest oilfield, El Sharara, a week after announcing a contractual waiver on exports from the field following its seizure by protesters. (Reuters)

Palestine: The UN and the Palestinian Authority have appealed for $350m in aid for Palestinians in 2019, saying they needed more but had to be “realistic” following major aid cuts by the UN. The UN said the appeal, down from $539 million in 2018, was due to a lack of available donor funds to support 1.4 million Palestinians through more than 200 projects. (Al Jazeera)

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Morocco: suspect has been arrested in Morocco after two young Scandinavian women were found murdered with their throats cut in the Atlas Mountains, the interior ministry said. Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, a 24-year-old from Denmark, and an unidentified 28-year-old woman from Norway were found dead in a remote mountain area on Monday. Morocco’s interior ministry said it had arrested one person in Marrakesh on Tuesday, around 37 miles from where the women’s bodies were found. Both women were found “with evidence of violence to their necks,” the ministry said. (The Telegraph)

Germany: German Police on Tuesday raided a mosque in Berlin whose preacher was suspected of transferring funds to an Islamist fighter in Syria for the purpose of carrying out “terrorist criminal acts”, prosecutors said. (Reuters)

Belgium: Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has offered his resignation just days after one of his main coalition partners quit in a row over migration. Mr Michel lost the backing of the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) over his support for a UN migration deal signed in Marrakesh last week. He announced his intention to resign after opposition parties refused to support his minority government. Mr Michel told King Philippe of his decision late on Tuesday. (BBC)

Spain: Four Catalan independence leaders who are on a hunger strike in prison awaiting trial for rebellion over their role in last year’s unauthorized referendum and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence have sent 40 letters to European Union authorities to denounce their situation. In their message to the heads of European nations and EU officials, the four men detail how Spain’s Constitutional Court is, in their view, “blocking” all their appeals, in order to prevent them from getting their cases to the European justice system. (El País)

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Syria: Russia, Iran and Turkey, supporters of the main sides in Syria’s complex civil war, on Tuesday failed to agree on the makeup of a United Nations-sponsored Syrian constitutional committee but called for it to convene early next year to kick off a viable peace process. In a joint statement read out by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after the trio met the UN Syria peace envoy, Staffan de Mistura, in Geneva, they said the new initiative should be guided “by a sense of compromise and constructive engagement”. (Al Jazeera)

Tunisia: Tunisia ”categorically refuses forced expulsions of its irregular migrants from their respective hosting countries”, Tunisian Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Trabelsi said, opening a seminar in Tunis on migration in relation to objectives of sustainable development. In his address, Trabelsi denounced the use of unilateral measures by some hosting countries, stressing that irregular migration can only be tackled with the help of conventions and international agreements. He announced the presentation of a national strategy on migration to Parliament in 2019 with the objective of institutionalizing the system of migration, asylum and residence in Tunisia. (ANSAmed)

Italy: The solution offered to the European Commission is not ‘ideal’ but Italy’s efforts are sufficient to avoid the launch of the excessive deficit procedure, the EU executive announced on Wednesday (19 December). The Commission and the Italian government clinched a compromise on Rome’s hotly contested budget plan after two intense weeks of talks. (EurActiv)

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Tunisia: Tunisian special forces have killed one of the alleged leaders of jihadist group Okba Ibn Nafaa, active on the mountains of Jendouba, El Kef and Kasserine, local media report. The operation reportedly took place on Mount Jradou, in the Kef region. Local media identified the man as Aymen Ben Mouldi Ben Younes Jendoubi, a native of Cité Chrichi in Kef. (ANSAmed)

Morocco: Danish intelligence services have authenticated a video circulating on social media that shows the murder of one of two Scandinavian women killed in Morocco as fears mount that the tourists were killed by Islamist extremists. It came as Moroccan authorities arrested three more suspects over the killings in the Atlas mountains. The men were arrested in Marrakech as they tried to flee by bus to the popular tourist resort of Agadir according to a national security spokesman, Boubker Sabik, who told the Associated Press that authorities were investigating whether they had terrorist affiliations. (The Guardian)

Spain: Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service has found 11 dead migrants in a boat off the country’s southern coast and rescued more than 30 other passengers. All of the migrants were from sub-Saharan Africa, a spokeswoman with the service said. (The Irish Examiner)

Syria: The United States will end its air campaign against Islamic State in Syria when it pulls out troops, U.S. officials said, sealing an abrupt reversal of policy which has alarmed Western allies as well as Washington’s Kurdish battle partners. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been fighting Islamic State with U.S. support for three years, said President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of troops would grant the militants breathing space to regroup at a critical stage in the conflict and leave Syrians stuck between “the claws of hostile parties” fighting for territory in the seven-year-old war. (Reuters)

Palestine: Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian at a roadblock in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the Palestinian health ministry said. The Israeli military, in a statement that made no mention of any casualties, said a vehicle broke through the roadblock and soldiers opened fire. It said it was investigating the incident, which occurred at night near the Palestinian city of Ramallah. (Reuters)

UK: Environmental protestors were suspected of orchestrating a drone attack that shut down Gatwick airport amid questions over how they could wreak chaos for 24 hours. The repeated appearance of the drone within Gatwick’s one-kilometre no-fly zone forced more than 760 flights to be grounded and the travel pans of 110,000 passengers five days before Christmas to be ruined. (Daily Telegraph)

Friday, 21 December 2018

Czech Republic: A methane explosion in a Czech coal mine has killed 13 miners, including 11 Polish nationals and two Czechs, the mine operator OKD said on Friday. The state-run OKD company said a methane blast more than 800 metres (875 yards) underground devastated areas of the CSM hard-coal mine, near the town of Karvina, on Thursday. (Al Jazeera)

Palestine: The leader of Hamas is likely to visit Moscow at the start of next year, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Friday, according to the RIA news agency.  Bogdanov said Moscow was also ready to organize a meeting between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, which runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. (Haaretz)